Deadly Tornadoes Hit Oklahoma: Searching for Hope
Another natural disaster has struck an American city. As we deal with the loss and devastation in central Oklahoma, what hope can we find in the Bible?
The devastating results of a natural disaster have once again struck in the United States. Oklahoma City and surrounding communities were hit by a series of powerful storm cells that spawned a number of tornadoes on Monday, May 20.
These tornadoes—one estimated to have been two miles wide—have left communities and buildings in ruins. More heart-breaking is the report of deaths and injuries. At the time of writing, there have been 24 confirmed deaths and over 200 injured.
The nation woke up Tuesday to videos and photographs on the TV news and Internet that documented the tremendous suffering and physical damage left by these massive storms. The images alone would be awful enough, but they were coupled with reports of the complete destruction of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma. One could not help but fear the worst; and for the families of seven children confirmed dead at the site, that is certainly the case.
Condolences and hope
The staff members of Life, Hope & Truth send our condolences to all the families and individuals affected by the storms. We grieve with those who have lost homes, businesses, friends and family members.
When tragedies like these occur, people desire answers. They want to know why these things happen and what real hope there is for those affected. Life, Hope & Truth’s purpose is to give answers.
As we mourn the loss of these children and adults in Oklahoma, let’s consider three major messages from the Bible:
- We should grieve for those who have died and are suffering, but we can look to God in hope. There is a time coming when those who have died will live again and suffering will end.
The feeling of grief and empathy for those suffering in Oklahoma is what Jesus Christ would want to see in us. Jesus felt empathy and grief when viewing the hopeless grief of others at the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:33, 35). Unlike the mourners for Lazarus, if we are aware of God’s loving plan for humanity, our grief will be tempered with the knowledge that those who died still have a future ahead of them (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
- We should not ignore the fact that the intensity of natural disasters is increasing—and will continue to increase.
Though natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.) have been occurring on earth for thousands of years, many experts and commentators have noted a spike in the intensity and extent of devastation of natural disasters in recent years. An Oct. 17, 2012, Bloomberg article reported that there has been a “fivefold increase in weather-related natural disasters in North America over the past three decades.”
The statistics show that extreme weather catastrophes are becoming “more frequent and intense in various regions.”
Students of Bible prophecy understand that natural disasters will continue to increase as we approach the end times (Matthew 24:7). End-time weather disasters should lead us to examine our sins against God (Job 37:11-13).
- Beware of considering God only in times of disaster.
Though it is good to reach out to God in times of disaster and suffering, if that is the only time we reach out to God in prayer, we are in danger of demonstrating the spiritual short-sightedness that Jesus Christ talked about 2,000 years ago: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matthew 15:8, emphasis added).
Life, Hope & Truth offers this message to the people of the United States and other areas of the world that suffer tragedies: Properly support and grieve with those who have been affected. Pray for them. Help them rebuild. Among other nations, America is noted for its generosity to its own people and to suffering people of other nations.
But don’t stop there. Don’t make God your last resort for comfort and help in times like this.
Respond to tragedy in the way Jesus Christ commanded: Seek to know and love God at all times (Luke 13:3, 5). This spirit of turning to God with our whole heart is what is meant by repentance. The prophet Jeremiah’s words apply to our nation as much as they applied to sixth-century B.C. Judah: “Amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; then the LORD will relent concerning the doom that He has pronounced against you” (Jeremiah 26:13).
Sorrows and tragedies will continue to escalate in the years ahead. Repentance and change will bring hope to your life and better prepare you to make sense of what is happening in the world around you.
Read more in the articles “Why Does God Allow Suffering?” and “Hope in Christ.”